SOPA Markup Day 1: We Don't Understand This Bill, It Might Do Terrible Things, But Dammit, We're Passing It Now

from the how-congress-works dept

So, if you weren’t paying attention, yesterday was a marathon session of SOPA amendments… It ran for 11.5 hours, with just one tiny break, and it looks like they didn’t even get through half of the amendments. I’ll get into some more details in a bit, but honestly the single best description of the insanity of these hearings came from The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri, who called them “nightmarish.”

If this were surgery, the patient would have run out screaming a long time ago. But this is like a group of well-intentioned amateurs getting together to perform heart surgery on a patient incapable of moving. ?We hear from the motion picture industry that heart surgery is what?s required,? they say cheerily. ?We?re not going to cut the good valves, just the bad ? neurons, or whatever you call those durn thingies.?

This is terrifying to watch. It would be amusing ? there?s nothing like people who did not grow up with the Internet attempting to ask questions about technology very slowly and stumbling over words like ?server? and ?service? when you want an easy laugh. Except that this time, the joke?s on us.

That really describes the situation perfectly. Over and over again the people in favor of this bill flat out admitted that they didn’t understand the technology — and when the various people opposed to it asked why don’t they get some experts in to answer some questions, the supporters had no credible response. The DNS and security aspects were completely brushed aside. As Rep. Jason Chaffetz (who is fighting the good fight against this) pointed out repeatedly, there’s simply no reason to rush this bill when there are such widespread concerns about it and no one has taken the time to get the answers to key questions.

But the supporters of the bill — mainly Reps. Lamar Smith, Bob Goodlatte and Mel Watt — simply wanted to push forward at all costs. They rejected every amendment raised, except two minor ones (we’ll get to that in a minute). Amazingly they rejected all sorts of quite reasonable suggestions — while complaining that those opposed to the bill never had any suggestions to fix it! And yet when those actual proposals were brought up, they were rejected out of hand. It really was pretty disgusting. Goodlatte’s responses struck me as particularly inane. He kept rejecting amendments because he feared that the amendment could be abused. The fact that most of those amendments were to prevent the much wider scale abuses guaranteed under SOPA never seemed to occur to him.

In fact, supporters of the bill regularly used arguments that actually could have been turned around on them. They refused an amendment from Rep. Darrell Issa to limit the powers of the bill to those who actually were in the US, saying that it would set a bad precedent for countries like China… and this came just after they were totally outraged that anyone might think that the entire bill itself sets a bad precedent for countries like China. The disingenuous bullshit was really ridiculous.

Rep. Watt was particularly keen to display his own ignorance. He regularly admitted that he wasn’t very knowledgeable on technology — which should have been a reason to recuse himself or to at least ask for more info from experts. Instead, he just insisted that all of the technical experts were simply wrong. Based on what? Nothing. How does someone like Watt get elected when he appears to want to regulate the internet based on pure faith and against what every single expert has said? It’s downright scary.

Later, Watt angrily rejected an amendment to clarify some language to make sure it was limited — by saying that he believed the language already said what the amendment added. If that’s true, why reject the amendment? All it would do is make the intent clear. Instead, he said no. That makes no sense at all.

What was clear, from the beginning, was that the SOPA supporters were not there in good faith. They had no intention of listening to reasonable suggestions to fix the bill, and stuck together as a bloc to reject pretty much all of them — even while admitting their own ignorance. The really sad part was when Goodlatte tried to equate the views of a couple of policy analysts who get money from the entertainment industry, with the views of nearly 100 independent internet engineers who have pointed out how problematic SOPA really would be. Watt and others tried to pretend that because each side could turn up someone who would say something that those views were equal. It’s the insane Congressional equivalent of “he-said/she-said” journalism, where you “hear” both sides, but never seek out the truth. That’s nuts.

The simple fact is that nearly every single actual credible internet engineer has come out against these bills. There isn’t an equivalence where each side can turn up a few people. The scales are completely weighted down against the bills… and many of those people have no associations whatsoever — even as SOPA defenders insisted that only “Google” experts were against the bill. Stewart Baker isn’t speaking for Google. Sandia National Labs isn’t speaking for Google.

The real insanity is that supporters of the bill are rushing forward just because they want to pass “something,” and they don’t seem to care about the consequences.

As for the two amendments that did pass, one was to say that if you “knowingly misrepresented” a claim on a site, you had to pay attorneys’ fees. Of course, “knowingly misrepresent” is a very, very high bar that will almost never be met. A similar amendment by Rep. Chaffetz that would also require fees if you failed to get an injunction in court was rejected, because SOPA supporters were worried this would scare people off. As Chaffetz pointed out: that’s the whole point. It would scare off those who don’t have strong, legitimate claims.

The other amendment that passed right at the end, was from Rep. Jared Polis, requiring the State Department to do a study on the eventual impacts of SOPA. That doesn’t change the law really. It just will at least let people check back in on the damage it does a couple years from now.

A few other key points:

  • Huge kudos to Reps. Issa, Lofgren, Chaffetz and Polis, who combined to repeatedly point out the problems of the bill and to argue forcefully and compellingly about why we needed to fix these problems. That much of the rest of the Committee ignored these concerns, played them down, or rejected them for silly or nonsense reasons, is really just a statement on the sad state of Congress today.
  • I heard from sources that a big time content industry lobbyist was seen hanging out in the “members only” area during the session. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about what’s going on, then you’re not paying attention.
  • There was a bizarre elementary school-like fight that went on at one point. Rep. Steve King tweeted early on:

    We are debating the Stop Online Piracy Act and Shiela Jackson has so bored me that I’m killing time by surfing the Internet.

    Rep. Jackson-Lee found out about this and announced that she was “offended,” at which point it seemed like a bunch of these old clueless men started arguing about how inappropriate it was for her to say she was offended. The whole session had to pause while they talked to a “parliamentarian” about whether it was okay to use the term “offended,” eventually leading Jackson-Lee to change her statement. Yeah. These are the people in charge of making our laws. Scary.

  • With the session going on for 11.5 hours, there was a short break for lunch, but for dinner Rep. Lamar Smith offered “four kinds of pizza,” but apparently only for other members. Staffers had to sit and starve. Nice of them, huh?

All in all, the process should leave you frightened for our country. This was not an attempt to fix a broken law. It was an attempt to please some Hollywood funders at the expense of innovation and jobs. It’s insanity.

That said… if you want to watch more of it today, tune in either at the Judiciary website or the KeepTheWebOpen site and make sure you have a pillow nearby for when you want to bang your head on the desk or wall. Once again, I’ll be live-tweeting some of the hearing (don’t think I can make all of it) from my personal Twitter account.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “SOPA Markup Day 1: We Don't Understand This Bill, It Might Do Terrible Things, But Dammit, We're Passing It Now”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Mike C. (profile) says:

Watched a lot yesterday.

I watched a lot of the proceedings yesterday and as a parent of two kids (14 & 10), uncle to over a dozen more, great uncle to another half-dozen and yet, I’ve never seen a more blatant display of petty, childish bickering in my near 45 years. The absolute refusal of the Hollywood mouthpieces to even rationally discuss the issue was only surpassed by their complete lack of knowledge on the subject.

Is it too late to move to Canada? With representatives like this, I have my doubts this one will be a nice place to live for much longer.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Watched a lot yesterday.

No it isn’t working to well as the bill winds is weary way through our appointed Senate.

A number of legal experts up here have pointed out that it will, when challenged (not IF), that it will likely be found to be unconstitutional on a number of points. The best one has been that it will bring “the administration of justice into disrepute” a big no-no under our constitution.

At least the bill doesn’t, yet, AFAIK, include silliness like DNS blocking which would have the security folks up here ripping their hair out and yelling, quietly, in committee that they don’t want this, can’t live with this, that it stinks and to stop it NOW. Usually they get their way on Parliament Hill. Not always for the better. But this time they’d be on the side of the angels.

(You’d probably have to be a native born Canadian to understand how it’s possible to yell quietly anywhere but we somehow manage to do it.)

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Watched a lot yesterday.

Oh how we are clueless about international stuff. I’m Brazilian. 10mbit connection running at 1.2Mb/s at peak times, could be 100mbit but I don’t feel it’s necessary for the price. We also have optic fibers for the ones that want it and it’s actually cheaper than cable (I’m using cable) but my building is pretty old so there’s no space for more cables without some pretty huge layout adaptations.

But I digress. You are clueless about our internet (even though you might be right for smaller rural areas). And we can download for personal non-commercial uses too, which says tons when you see SOPA going on. Not to mention our electoral system, while imperfect, is way ahead from the US.

I think we are accepting foreigners for permanent visa. Wanna apply for it?

Peregrine (user link) says:

Re: Watched a lot yesterday.

We’ll be glad to have you here. Over here in Canada, we’re watching in utter bafflement as Congress inexorably passes what has to be the most hypocritical law in the history of the nation. Freedom of my speech, my @ss. This is how censorship on the same level of Iran, China, and Egypt begins. The next target for internet blacklisting will no doubt be Wikileaks and anyone who links there. Then it will be any website that speaks ill of the government. And it will go on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Watched a lot yesterday.

by Threatening to move to Canada, this is a Threat to the Economy of your area via the removal of taxable spending and income.

By threatening the economy, you’re now possibly terrorist threat.

By being a terrorist threat, you’re now subject to arrest and indefinite detention.

You’ve been tracked.

Jeff (profile) says:

To paraphrase an awesome comment made yesterday – “The checks have cleared what are we waiting for?”

That our senators would openly “service” an industry that arguably was built on screwing its own producers is… well I can’t find words to express my contempt.

Hollywood and its hangers on rake in a lot of money and then a small percentage is passed on to our ‘elected’ congress-scum ensuring things will ‘go their way’. The fact our representatives and senators can be bought for such a small amount is actually embarrassing (and a whole other rant). But even more stunning is the difference between the hollywood industry and the tech industry. It brings to mind the anecdote from the 90’s about Michael Jordan and how much money he makes per minute of playing time, and how many cars, and houses he could buy; and then how long he’d have to work to equal Bill Gates.

I would hope that if this law passes the tech industry would finally wake the fuck up and start buying a few representatives and senators of their own.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re:

… No. That has been the entire problem with this process from the beginning. We need to remove these people from Congress. Set up term limits. Reduce the amount if donations and change the voting system.

Once you have the tech industry lobbying, their message is corrupted. Period. This is not about effective laws if one side has the money to buy those that make them.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There’s a few options that we can do instead. One requires us to make political donations smaller.

Another requires an overhaul of the system. But I like the Indian notion of bribery not being illegal, just whoever’s on the receiving end could be set up for blackmail (IIRC).

We can change the system, it’s just going to take a LOT of work to get through the BS.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Personally, I am enjoying the shrill cries of the pro-piracy lobby

Hey, don’t get us wrong. We don’t care. Its not like any of this will make a dent in piracy. People will just go underground. We’re worried about collateral damage. Frankly, this is just another way for Hollywood to slit its own throat. None of this will stop piracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Personally, I am enjoying the shrill cries of the pro-piracy lobby

And you just don’t see the bigger picture that we are losing our rights in this process.

I hope you don’t have children because you’ll have a lot of explaining to do one day…

Finally, this should make you angry that we have so many obviously dirty and bought politicians. Where is your outrage at the corrupt politicians?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Personally, I am enjoying the shrill cries of the pro-piracy lobby

I find people who think everyone against this is pro-piracy to be even more hilarious. It’s like saying I’m against war and then you spinning that into “well then you support terrorism”.

Your views on people and situations are sickening. Us and Them. Nothing more frightening and sad in the world then people who think like that.

Oh, quick question, all those representatives who raised questions and voiced concerns over SOPA, are they also “pro-piracy” in your opinion?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Personally, I am enjoying the shrill cries of the pro-piracy lobby

This site’s administrator makes a living advocating for a “piracy should not be fought” worldview. If you are paid to promote a vision of the future where piracy is a legally accepted norm, you are part of the pro-piracy lobby.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Personally, I am enjoying the shrill cries of the pro-piracy lobby

“Oh, quick question, all those representatives who raised questions and voiced concerns over SOPA, are they also “pro-piracy” in your opinion?”


Do try and get over your bias and hatred of Mike. Focus on the issue, or better said question, at hand (see above, the stuff in all caps). Answer that before you go off on your Mike rants (which to be honest, I really don’t give a sh*t about or care to hear, your thoughts on Mike’s viewpoints and whatnot have been refuted repeatedly and with evidence/citations, there’s no point in explaining how misguided and wrong you are in regards to Mike so I won’t acknowledge the issue beyond this).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Personally, I am enjoying the shrill cries of the pro-piracy lobby

There is definitely a pro-piracy lobby. What do you think the Pirate Party is? Google pays for the EFF and “netroots” organizations to run propaganda in favor of deregulating piracy. Mike Masnick gets his salary from running a site, writing books, and giving talks in favor of abolishing anti-piracy law.

No pro-piracy lobby? Not from what I’ve seen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lamar Smith must be punished

We need to make an example out of him: his political career needs to be terminated.

It doesn’t matter who replaces him: right, left, middle, old, young, sane, crazy. We need to identify someone who will run against him and fund that individual to any level necessary to guarantee a win. We need to send a message in a language that his colleagues will understand.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Lets use the doom engine and build a game. It would probably be a huge hit. Imagine the levels you could build, the USTR, K street, The white house, the capital building, an oil refinery, a movie studio, a huge bank. Chasing down bill wielding zombie politicians, brain sucking lobbyist carrying large sums of cash, interns vomiting up acid based whiskey and cocaine, oh the fun!!!

The lead up video would be a mutagenic nuke going of and irradiating the city. Leading to a zombie apocalypse in DC.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The people making these comments are probably IP extremists pretending to be critics. No one is fooled, it’s not like IP extremists haven’t done this before.

and who made that comment? An IP extremist pretending to be a critic. and I hope Mike turns over their IP address so that they can get investigated. There is no end to the low that IP extremists would stoop to propagate their agenda and I want those making these sorts of comments on behalf of critics exposed.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

I had the stream running most of the day, and it was enough to drive any thought of ever running for office from my mind. The half-hour discussion about whether the word “offensive” was offensive was a definite low point. They even had to take a pause to discuss it with a parliamentarian.

Smith himself was a major low point. First, he kept insisting that he had tried to work with the tech industry for months, but they wouldn’t do anything. I assume that he meant that the tech industry would not agree to everything his MPAA bosses were telling him they needed. He also kept insisting that they would pass the bill today which showed how far out of touch with reality that he was.

Near the end of the day yesterday I came back to my office and was shocked to see that the meeting was still going on. I assumed that they must be replaying the hearing for people who missed part of it when it was live. They were going over the same arguments that I had heard several hours earlier, but I finally realized that it was still indeed going on and they were just recycling arguments.

MAJikMARCer (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You’d think with all the Occupy movements lately that they’d try to hide their corruption a bit more, but probably most of them are the ones legitimately asking, “What do they want?” while at the same time sticking fingers in their ears.

And this committee meeting has had MANY examples of people sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling, “lalalala I can’t hear you. You are wrong. I am right. lalalalala”

Loki says:

Re: Re: Re:

Why would any of these people care about the Occupy movement?

I get elected. A bunch of people stand on street corners holding signs telling me how much I suck. I get elected again. And Again. And again.

If these people really wanted to affect real change, they would spend their time researching some real alternatives to the current democrats and republicans who are strangling this country. They would tell all their family and friends who these people are. They would spend their time campaigning for these candidates and they would get them elected. Until then the Occupy movement doesn’t really mean a whole lot.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Huge kudos to Reps. Issa, Lofgren, Chaffetz and Polis, who combined to repeatedly point out the problems of the bill and to argue forcefully and compellingly about why we needed to fix these problems.”

Actually, based on their proposed amendments, they seem mostly aiming to neuter the bill and give 1000 outs to their friends.

Here’s an idea Mike, how about you check out where THEY get their funding from? Or are you only checking out the people you don’t agree with?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

So, to recap:

– We have already argued it out 100 times over, considering how many SOPA posts are on this blog
– The smearing start with Mike. I am only asking him to smear his political heros in the same manner, in the eye of fairness
– I don’t have to dig. Google donated “the max” to Issa.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unlike you who only have snarky statements in support of your friends.

And in your world the sun revolves around Hollywood (and you) so all things bright and beautiful come from Hollywood and to hell with everyone else, to hell with national security none of that matters.

Hollywood’s alleged losses of income are primary, their copyrights sacrosanct and they’d never, ever fib about anything much less their tiny contribution to the American economy.

They can buy politicians by the boatload and that’s cool with you but if Google dares donate/buy one you’re screaming blue murder.

Then again, you come cheap. For free. Oh, sorry, you can’t do that can you cause free is always piracy no matter what so you don’t come free. Must be that someone gave you a free bag of popcorn fresh from the popcorn plant in payment for your support.

Have nice day.

Michael says:

In summary

SOPA/PIPA is a transparent attempt by the corporate-bought government to:

-Regulate the internet
-Censor free speech
-Block/shut down any website deemed offensive
-Enforce a major media-controlled internet environment wherein they monopolize everything a-la television, radio, etc.
-Make copyright holders immune to legal retaliation
-Incriminate internet users
-Stomp on innovation and economic growth
-Strongly tempt tech companies to relocate their business overseas while simultaneously making foreign businesses apprehensive about doing business here
-Cause immense collateral damage

There’s more but that’s a good list. SOPA/PIPA are indicative of a morally corrupt government hell-bent on destroying America from within.

Michael says:

Re: Re: In summary

Yeah, I did because, even if his views are heavily biased, he uses facts to back up his claims. You’ll see — actually, I gues we’ll all see — once SOPA/PIPA passes all of the damage it does across the internet, impediments to freedom of speech, corporations moving overseas, and the heavy censoring which WILL occur.

Nobody wants Hollywood, the RIAA, et al. running the internet, so go away. As someone previously said, if there was so much support for your side of the argument, you’d have your own blog with tons of followers, yet you don’t because there aren’t.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: In summary

And you successfully kept your head in the sand.

But I do agree with him. Sometimes you need destruction to rescue what’s lost. Europe knows that too much.

I say let them destroy the US from within. I wish they did that without idiotic wars on terrorism or whatever and without sticking their noses on every single foreign issue. At least not when they can’t live by what they say.

dwg says:

Re: Re:

Yes. And good call, BTW. The amendments, such as they are, may provide what looks like a system of checks, balances and accountability for the law’s implementation, that any potentially unconstitutional acts taken under it could be assessed on a case-by-case basis, rather than having the law itself scrutinized at those points.

I know this restates what you said–it was just such a good point that I thought it warranted some expansion.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Personally I hope the bill gets passed as is. It will be a wake up call for the tech sector. It will lead to a ton of new tools to route around the censorship. It will also lead to a backlash against Hollywood and the labels. What actor or artist is going to want to be associated with censorship? Plus it will bring the entire IP issue into public light, the place every IP type doesn’t want it to be.

Anonymous Coward says:

Public sees members of Congress as the problem

Pew Research Center poll conducted Dec. 7-11, 2011, confirms other independent polls finding record anti-incumbent sentiment:

[O]ne of the few areas of bipartisan agreement when it comes to views of Congress is that the problem with the institution is the members themselves, not the political system. In assessing Congress, 55% of the public says they think the system can work fine, it?s the members that are the problem. Just 32% say they think most members have good intentions but the political system is broken. The balance of opinion is virtually identical across party lines.

Anonymous Coward says:

How did Mel Watt get elected

While I hope this doesn’t sound racist, he got elected because he’s a black candidate in a HORRIBLY gerrymandered district designed to give a seat to the Democrats so that the Republicans could protect their areas nearby. NC-12 is ridiculous… just look at it on a map… drawn up to segregate the vote and create a majority African American district.

Chicobo329 says:

I’m fairly confident that the absurdity of these hearings is enough to send a message that when this bill is put to the floor it won’t get an outpouring of support. And suppose it passes anyway, Obama would be certain to veto it, even if he hasn’t said anything yet. Obama wouldn’t dare sign this bill, it’d be political suicide and blowing up his major voter groups: young, educated people that use the internet regularly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Can’t help but feel like even if the right side of this issue wins out this time, it will be futile in the long term. Similar bills will just continue to be attempted to be rammed through, and eventually people will be tired of filling out petitions and calling their representatives. As long as the government is allowed to be fed cash by anyone who wants something none of this will matter. You can’t govern for the benefit of the people if money is directly involved. It’s really just sad

Ghede (profile) says:

People in a Democracy get the government they deserve. When you have a voter turnout of less than 50% and it’s RECORD-BREAKING, then I think you have an indication of how much of a shit US citizens give.
Don’t forget that NDAA business. That bill was considerably more onerous than SOPA, and you sat there and took it. This bill will pass with flying colours, and you good little consumers will eat that shit up while *MAYBE* 40% of you vote at the next election, and not a single one of you changes your vote to align with a candidate who doesn’t threaten everything that your forefathers lived and died for.

Ghede (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What, you don’t think that maybe if you motivated more than HALF YOUR COUNTRY you mightn’t find sufficient people who have some sense?
I’m fully prepared to believe that perhaps the US is populated, in the majority, by sycophantic consumerist idiots. But were I pressed on the matter, I’d have to say that I don’t think it’s likely.
Ultimately you have a choice. Stand up for what is right with your vote, or stand up for what is right with your person. Significantly less than half of you do either, so it’s difficult to not view you with scorn.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Voting in the US seems to me (as an outsider) to be “choose between the lesser of two evils”. Because you’re not being given a whole lot of choice.

In The Netherlands, where I’m from, it’s not a perfect system either, but we do have something like 10+ different parties.

And each party with their own viewpoints, bullet points and ideals.
The greens, the party for animal rights, the labour party, christian democrats, the socialist party, to name but a few.

Loki says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Voting in the US seems to me (as an outsider) to be “choose between the lesser of two evils”. Because you’re not being given a whole lot of choice.

I agree, sorta. I spent a great deal of time in the 2004 election researching alternate candidates, and they are out there (most states had like 5-8 candidates on the ballots). The trouble is the vast majority of the major media outlets are either pro-democrat or pro-republican, and neither wants information on alternatives to get out there (two candidates even got arrested trying to participate in a debate, and most media outlets didn’t even cover the arrests).

I tried convincing as many friends and family as I could (and won a few converts) but most people are/were stuck in this mindset of “the republicans are bad and only the democrats can beat them” or “the democrats are bad and only the republicans can beat them”.

I’m originally from Illinois.
Our last governor was a democrats. He reports to prison in, I think, February to serve 12 years for corruption.
The governor before him was a republican. He is currently serving 6 years for corruption.

Lamar Smith is republican.
Chris Dodd is democrat.

The simply truth is that when you look at how both parties operate, their methodologies may be massively different, but they both result in the same outcome (a small group of ultra-rich retain all the power and wealth, the rest survive as more or less a welfare state).

The problem isn’t that there aren’t alternative, it is that the alternative aren’t given enough voice by enough major media outlets for enough people to learn about them.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I was looking at some footage from interviews with Ron Paul, and the host was asking him who he’d endorse, as if he had stepped out of the race.
I mean, come on, Ron Paul is still running himself.

But yeah, you’re right, there is too much power at the broadcast level, they get to pick the candidates who are invited to the “debates”. Which, btw, isn’t really a debate, as that would take too much time and can’t be done with commercials interstitched. The televised debates are just candidates reiterating talking points in a question and answer setting.
Debating isn’t about answering stupid questions, it’s about exchanging ideas, and arguing those ideas in order to try and convince the other parties in the debate.

Ghede (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sorry. I shouldn’t be so vehemently anti-US. That’s not my intent. My intent is to point out that perhaps your people should have showed their displeasure before it reached this point.
I’m not suggesting revolution. But for every one of you who doesn’t believe your vote counts (and from what little I know of your horrendously broken system, those people are actually pretty close to right), there’s someone who votes for a member of the establishment. If you managed to convince the remaining ~60% of your nation to vote, you’d be a step closer to having representatives you actually represent you. Your people would feel more invested in the political process, and that level of participation (300 something million people?) can NOT be ignored.
Instead the country is happy to be lazy and just accept what is thrust upon them.

So much for the land of the free and home of the brave.

hothmonster says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

even if 100% of the people vote we are still picking between two useless jackasses. The whole system needs to be revamped to allow actual intelligent, considerate, educated, open-minded, non-narcissistic, candidates a chance at succeeding.

Right now the path to victory is spending tons of money on lies, slander and misconstrued truths. Anyone that does rise to the top in this system has no right being elected.

hothmonster says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I guess my point is people don’t vote because they see how entirely corrupt the whole system is. Politicians lie to get elected, lie while they are elected and then lie to get reelected. Our media lets them get away with all this shit and keep right on lying. If people do complain the side with the most money vested is going to win. Who are our choices in this upcoming election> 4 more years of lies and bullshit or 4 new years with whichever of the batshit crazy sycophants the other side puts up.

Ghede (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Absolutely agreed. And that’s certainly enough to get the average person to despair.
But despairing won’t change anything. The only way to change things is to do something. If you start voting with where your heart lies (and base that on readily available information of how the candidates have acted in the past, not what the god-awful media tells you), convince non-voters (and voters) to do the same, even consider running for local office with a view to bigger things, or anything that takes a little bit of the control away from the status quo, then you’re on the right track.
Change is not affected by people posting mildly comments on the internet. It’s done bit by bit. And it’s done by people who actually try. Do you think your country won its independence from the British by mailing each other letters saying “The British are mean and I don’t like them”? No, they stood up and represented themselves. Some otherwise perfectly ordinary people rose above and performed world-shaking acts, with the support of the populace.
Seriously, Americans, it’s time to shit or get off the can. Start challenging the system – You may not, personally, make a difference. But even Einstein based his work on what had come before him.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Do you think your country won its independence from the British by mailing each other letters saying “The British are mean and I don’t like them”?

U.S. History: Committees of Correspondence:

?.?.?. To spread the power of the written word from town to town and colony to colony, Committees of Correspondence were established.

The first such committee was organized by none other than Samuel Adams. Working with rural patriots, Adams enabled the entire Massachusetts citizenry to have access to patriot text. In fact, Adams knew that the residents of the seacoast towns were more informed of each crisis than those of the interior. The spread of these committees across urban centers happened quickly. Adams and others urged the establishment of correspondence committees in rural inland towns as well.

The Committees of Correspondence were bold enough to use the British postal service as the means of communication. For the most part, the pen was their weapon of choice?.?.?.?

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Yeah, but what can US citizens do? After they have made thousands of calls, millions of emails opposing this stupid bill, it still has a chance of getting through congress… What is left there to do? Reelections won’t be until after this bill has passed. And then it’s too late.

Also, the media won’t pick up on it, because it’s old hat after that. No need to hold someone accountable over ancient history.
Besides. there is a new $celebrity_scandal_of_the_day to talk about for about 24 hrs.

Ghede (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“The whole system needs to be revamped to allow actual intelligent, considerate, educated, open-minded, non-narcissistic, candidates a chance at succeeding”

I couldn’t agree more!

But it seems that the populace there would rather keep watching their TV and buying their burgers. I mean, it’s not like there’s actually anything to stop an independent from running, and with the internet, it’s no longer anywhere near as expensive to get the word out.

That doesn’t necessarily make it cheap to do so, nor does it mean that those with vast quantities of cash don’t have a big head start. But your nation has been built on the hard work of people who didn’t shy away from that sort of challenge, why would you not want to continue in a similar vein?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

” it’s not like there’s actually anything to stop an independent from running” Actually there are tons of things that keep independents from running.

I agree the internet opens doors but the system is gamed to keep independents from having any real shot at a national election. You need to have huge petitions signed by an enormous amount of people just to get on the ballet, and rules vary state to state and county to county. So now you need a staff in every state to collect signatures, mostly by going door to door. There are all kinds of little catches to the campaign process which keep any independent without about 30-100 million to throw around out of the race, for instance- by literally not allowing his name on the ballet.

So what do you do? Start your own party with less money and a lot more internet, fine. Then you are competing with the real parties, but not really because you won’t get the same media coverage or invited to any debates. So they will be all over the news and tv lambasting you while only people who already support you will see your response. Not to mention you still need people on the ground doing mailers, going door-to-door ect.

Sure you could probably get ‘some’ mainstream coverage, if you sink to their level. But then you end up corrupting yourself.

I see you point and agree whole heatedly. Hopefully someone steps up and meets the challenge, but I doubt they won’t just be another empty suit by the time the system is done with them. But I have given up on this country having a non-violent revolution a long time ago.

Ghede (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Change is not effected in one fell swoop. People can start small, at the local level and work up.

I’ve no doubt the odds are stacked against. The old guard *always* has the advantage over those who wants things to get better. But if nobody is prepared to challenge things, then things will always stay the same – simple as that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I agree, personally I just think we are past the point of this system being corrected without some bloodshed. To fix the system you have to be part of the system and to be part of the system you have to be corrupt, or you wont be a part of it for long.

Not that I am advocating a violent revolt. I just see little other chance of of disrupting the system enough to allow some change to happen. I pray someone can prove me wrong.

Ghede (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I can’t say that I disagree with your point here.

I would like to think that it’s not the case. But the last few elections and their results seem to be showing that your government is moving further and further away from a plebiscite as an effective way to solve the problem. I just hope for the best, in that respect.

Regardless, there needs to be action from the people. Neither form of change will occur without that.

Loki says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

It can be done, though. I know a lot of people who would have voted for Perot in ’92. But thanks to “instant updates” by the time they got to the polls, he was way behind and so they either voted for Clinton (to make sure Bush got booted) or Bush to try to keep Clinton out. Granted, he likely would not have won anyways, but if those late voters had stuck to their guns, he might have made a close enough showing (he still got a pretty good chunk of vote anyways), that the ’96 or even 2000 elections might have been very different indeed.

Ghede (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I have to apologise. You make a perfectly appropriate point and I shouldn’t have been a dick as it debases my argument.

In my (incomplete) defence, I genuinely thought you meant that there were only 2 candidates. There *are* people who are largely ignorant of the other candidates and they are a VERY large part of the problem, because they don’t care enough about their own country to find out.

That isn’t a good enough defence, though. I simply shouldn’t have been a dick. Instead I should have worded my objections to that concept much better.

Again, you have my apologies.

Loki says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually, you don’t need to convince the remaining 60%.

If only 40% of the people vote, and the vote is pretty well split down the middle, that’s only 20% of the people who are voting for each party. If you can convince just 10% of the people standing on the sidelines to vote, and pull maybe 5% of the vote from each party you’d be left with:

Rep – 15%
Dem – 15%
Ind – 20%

You can still have a huge victory by just getting a small percentage of bystanders and pulling a smaller percentage of moderates from each side.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

” not a single one of you changes your vote to align with a candidate who doesn’t threaten everything that your forefathers lived and died for”

I’m sure more people would do that if we had a candidate that fit that bill, its gonna be Obama (more of the same) or one of these batshit crazy repubs. Yeah! fucked either way!

Concerned Citizen (profile) says:

A Black List of Representatives

Can we get a black list of representatives and senators? These people are nominally responsible to us, and if they vote for this bill, I’d like to know each and every one of their names and districts.
And make them know exactly what happens when representatives and senators stop representing the people that they are responsible to.

Gonzo says:

First time

This is the first time I’ve ever seen someone comment on how the politicians treat the staff. It’s a refreshing change from our normal treatment by the media as if we enjoyed the same perks of being a legislator.

I work on the state level where it mirrors the federal, and on a typical session day we will arrive at 8am, eat lunch at our desks, support chamber operations until about 5-6pm, support the flow of them taking staggered dinners, resume chamber support at 7-8, continuing to midnight, then work for 2-4 hours further to process the reports they want on their desks in the morning. Due to budget abuses, this isn’t spread across multiple employee shifts, this is individuals working up to 19 hours with minimal breaks while the legislators like Lamar Smith email out to all members and staff about member-only dinner being provided by lobbyists.

Thank you for including this often overlooked reality in your report on this absolutely disgusting legislation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sad but True

I think it is fairly safe to say, at this point it should be obvious that congress simply does what it is paid to do. Winston Churchill said, ?If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at forty you have no brain?.

What does that quote mean? In short, I think it means if you want congress to behave or act a certain way, you need to pay them. Congress is not about logic, insight, innovation, or critical thinking. We are in fact a capitalist society. I think Churchill was simply alluding to the fact that our opinion really doesn?t matter in Washington. Care to stand out on the street corner and join the protesters on Wall Street? This did not impact congress in one way, shape, or form. Yet, somehow people feel this is making a difference. If you want congress do something, get out your wallet and stand in the hallway and make sure they pass your legislation.

I agree entirely with the authors point about this legislation being destructive to the internet. But, common sense doesn?t matter here. If you don?t like it, get ready to pay to change it. What will stand and what will fall? That will be determined by he who has the most money. Vocalizing your opinion, well everyone has one of those and they usually give them away for free.

This is why Rick Perry said he was going to take down 3 agencies of government and then couldn?t even name them. WOW! If your planning on doing away with a government agency you should at least know what it is? So yeah, a flawed bill will pass. I don?t think half these guys congress understand the full impact of what they do. But, I don?t think they care. They simply do what they are told to do by their financial source. That is very much a reality of what we are dealing with today.

Alphonse Damato says:

Rep. Watt

Rep. Watt is a disgrace to the Judiciary Committee. When he argued against an amendment but got it exactly backwards (he was for what was in the amendment, and against what was in SOPA as written) and discovered it, he promptly flip flopped and came out against the amendment.

It was the most egregious example of dishonest and corruption that I’d ever seen in my life. The guy is terrified of pissing off his RIAA overlords (who are top 5 donors to his reelection campaign).

Corrupt, corrupt, corrupt.

ChairmanLMAO (profile) says:

This is what purchased government looks like

Congresspeople don’t care about votes. Their constituents are the industries they carry water for.

Guaranteed, Lamar Smith, Bob Goodlatte, and Mel Watt have cushy jobs waiting for them as entertainment industry lobbyists (like Chris Dodd) once they leave office.

America has been bought and sold at auction like a sack of potatoes. The real question facing us is if any of us give enough of a damn to do something about it.

Disgusted Knowledgeable says:


This entire thing makes me want to vomit. Our politics are in such a terrible state….

Why is it that people who don’t know what these things mean have to be taught in public law sessions at taxpayer expense with the corporations whispering in their ears?

Hey how much is a plane ticket to Brazil? I’ve got a 50 kb/s connection =(.

And i thought I was outraged at the DMCA…..

Well, there is a silver lining to this. Maybe more people will start using TOR and it will get faster…

Muggle says:


“What was expected in this contingency was for the committee to resume work whenever the House reconvenes in January. After all, with such controversial and far-reaching legislation, it is better to take one?s time. But no: the committee has announced it will continue markup this coming Wednesday, the 21st of December.”

Unbelievable they must got paid extra by MPAA and RIAA to go through the holidays.

John says:

Hell ya!

“In response to SOPA, Anonymous hackers target US government”

“Anonymous, a hacker organization that made headlines earlier this year by shutting down government websites during the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, said Friday it was preparing to launch what it called ?Operation Blackout,? and rallied Americans to participate in nationwide protests in an effort to stop the legislation from passing.”

Patriot Giin (profile) says:

Exactly. Just like with their waaaay to much income (for life) with their 40 something paid vacation days per year, and perfect free healthcare (also for life). They would be the ones to take it away.

Fat chance.

Read an article couple months ago, we’re at 35 of the 37 states turning against the federal government needed to reboot the nation, new continental Congress. New government. New nation.

We need it.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...